Paul playing the anonymous 18th century organ in the Muziekhaven Zaandam, formerly the Oud-Katholiek Kerk van de H. Maria Magdalena..
Paul Ritchie was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, near the North East coast of England. His earliest experience of church music was as a chorister at St Nicholas Church, Gosforth, and during his teenage years he sang at St John’s Church, Grainger Street, in Newcastle city centre, where he had organ lessons with Geoffrey Watson FRCO. Here he composed his first piece, an Amen for the end of Evensong.
At the age of seventeen Paul joined the small organ building firm of Church and Company, which specialised in mechanical action organs for churches, schools, and private clients. Some of those organs found their way to the USA, including the Sacred Heart Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and St Peter’s Church, Geneva, New York, for both of which he designed the casework.
In 1981 Paul was appointed Organist & Choirmaster at St George’s Church, Cullercoats where he remained for the next twenty-four years. During his time at Cullercoats he composed music for the congregation and choir, including introits, anthems, communion settings, canticles, psalm chants, and two complete three-year cycles of responsorial psalms.
“Come, Let Us Join Our Cheerful Songs” was composed for an RSCM competition in 1996. It was not short-listed, but Harry Bramma, the Director at that time, liked it enough to ask if the RSCM might publish it. The chance discovery that the National Catholic Youth Choir had featured “Come, Let Us Join Our Cheerful Songs” in their summer concert in 2002, and had recorded it twice on cd, led to a happy collaboration with the Chicago based publisher GIA.
For the past twenty years Paul has been making regular trips to the Netherlands to see, hear, and play the wealth of historic pipe organs which can be found there. Having discovered the Genevan psalm melodies, an important element in Reformed worship, he began composing sets of organ variations, and these are published in the Netherlands by Spiritoso.
In retirement Paul plays the organ on a freelance basis, and gives the occasional recital. He has also visited many of the seventy five organs he helped to design and build during his time at Church & Company.